• Indigenous peoples in Australia

    Indigenous peoples in Australia

    The Aboriginal population in Australia is estimated to 745,000 individuals or 3 per cent of the total population of 24,220,200.
    Australia recognises the status of the indigenous peoples and has endorsed the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Still, high suicide rates among the indigenous population in Australia are alarming.
  • Peoples

    The Aboriginal population in Australia is estimated to 745,000 individuals or 3 per cent of the total population of 24,220,200.
  • Rights

    Australia has not ratified ILO Convention No. 169, but although it voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007, it went on to endorse it in 2009
  • Current state

    The health situation is particularly alarming. The gap in mortality rates remains 1.7 times higher for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders than for non-indigenous people (2009-2013).

Australia

The Aboriginal population in Australia is estimated to 745,000 individuals or 3 per cent of the total population of 24,220,200. Australia recognises the status of the indigenous peoples and has endorsed the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Still, high suicide rates among the indigenous population in Australia is alarming.

Rights of indigenous peoples in Australia

The status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of Australia has been recognised in a number of ways: through common law native title and the historic Mabo decision, and in legislation such as The Racial Discrimination Act (1975), the Native Title Act (1993), and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act (1989 and 2005).

Other landmarks event have been the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation and the Roadmap for Reconciliation (2006) and National Apology to the Stolen Generations (2008). At national level there is a ministry of Indigenous Affairs and since 2015 an Assistant Ministry for Care and Indigenous Health and States and Territories have legislation on indigenous rights.

Australia has not ratified ILO Convention No. 169, but although it voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007, it went on to endorse it in 2009.

Indigenous peoples in Australia

Throughout their history, Aboriginal people have lived in all parts of Australia. Today the majority live in regional centres (43 per cent) or cities (32 per cent), although some still live in on traditional lands in remote or very remote areas.

At colonisation in 1788, there may have been up to 1.5 million people in Australia. Today the Aboriginal population is estimated at some 745,000 individuals or 3 per cent of Australia’s total population of 24,220,200.

Main challenges for Australia's indigenous peoples

The health situation is particularly alarming. The gap in mortality rates remains 1.7 times higher for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders than for non-indigenous people (2009-2013). Mortality among children aged 0–4 years is 1.9 times higher than for non-indigenous children.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians also have higher rates of chronic diseases and the mortality rate from diabetes is 12 times higher than the rate for non-indigenous Australians. Other data show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders adults are overrepresented when talking about severe or profound disability, obesity, increased substance misuse, high levels of psychological distress and hospitalisations for self-harm.

Suicide has emerged as a major cause of indigenous premature mortality and it was in 2014 the fifth leading cause of death among indigenous people, primarily men, although the number of suicides and self-harm among indigenous females is increasing. Indigenous children and young people are particularly vulnerable: indigenous 15–24 year olds are over five times as likely to suicide as their non-indigenous peers and 30 per cent of the nation’s youth suicides (to age 17) are Aboriginal. Aboriginal children represent 80 per cent of the nation’s suicides of children aged 12 years and less. 

Political participation of Australia's indigenous population

Indigenous people have long advocated for better political representation and fairer consultation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the First Peoples, but they are less than 3 per cent of the Australian population.

In Australia’s representative democracy, which works by majority vote at the ballot box and in Parliament, it is difficult for their voice to be heard and for them to influence laws that are made about them.

The newly elected Parliament includes five indigenous parliamentarians; three senators, Patrick (Pat) Dodson, Jacqui Lambie and Malarndirri McCarthy; and two members of the House of Representatives, Ken Wyatt and Linda Burney.

Ken Wyatt became the first elected Indigenous MP in 2010 and has since 2015 been the Coalition's Assistant Minister for Age Care and Indigenous Health. Linda Burney is the first indigenous woman to hold a seat in the federal House of Representatives and is the Australian Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for Human Services. At the state level, there are presently 11 indigenous state parliamentarians (7 men and 4 women).  

 

Australia: Up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities under threat of closure

Due to the withdrawal of federal funding for essential services up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities have been marked for closure by the State Government of West Australia. 

A leaked document obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), recently revealed that extensive research was conducted as early as 2010 to identify remote West Australian Aboriginal communities considered unsustainable.

Continue Reading

About IWGIA

IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Download here.

Contact IWGIA

Classensgade 11 E
DK 2100 Copenhagen
Denmark
Phone: (+45) 35 27 05 00
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410